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Felicia Alvarez

Where to See Wildflowers in California and Arizona

Posted by Felicia Alvarez on March 14, 2018
poppies in bloom in Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, picture
Photo credit
Photo: Sarah Fields Photography
Photo caption
A covering of orange poppies lights up the hillside in the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve.

Between the cracks of sprawling deserts, tumbling hills, and arching mountainsides, colorful dashes of springtime wonder are setting in across California and Arizona. Wildflower season is upon us.

While this year’s particularly dry winter has stunted several wildflower grows—or pushed them back later in the season—park officials say that’s just an excuse to get out there and hunt for flower sightings beyond the usual places. So strap on those hiking boots, dab on some sunscreen, and hit the trails for Wildflower Watch 2018.

Read More: Where to See Desert Wildflowers in the Spring

California

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park: With a bit of luck, visitors can see dashes of pastel from tuberose and desert lavender. During late March and early April, the western canyons will have larger wildflower displays; however, they won’t come close to rivaling the rare blooms seen last spring.

Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve: A modest wave of flowers (not poppies) sprang up on March 4. Towards the end of March and into the beginning of April, a small layer of poppies might pop out as well.

Joshua Tree National Park: At higher elevations, a slight wildflower bloom of cactus flowers, poppies, and daisies is anticipated between mid-April and early May.

South Yuba River State Park: Poppies and lupines are already covering the hillsides, and—despite a recent cold snap—officials are anticipating a good show of wildflowers by mid-March. Docent-led hikes are available through May 13; more information is available at the park website. 

Sugarloaf Ridge State Park: Fremont star lilies are cascading out of areas charred by wildfires in Sonoma County last year. Lesser-seen "fire followers" wildflowers are anticipated to rise out of the soil throughout the spring. The park is offering both wildflower and fire recovery walks starting March 11.

Van Hoosear Wildflower Preserve: An abundance of wildflowers sprang up early this year, with milkmaids, buttercups, blue dicks, checkered lilies, poppies, and many more already filling the hillsides. Free, reservation-only tours are the only way to visit the park, and the tours run from March 31 to April 15.

Mono County: Much of the county is still experiencing light snow and cold conditions, making it hard to anticipate when wildflowers will begin to crop. May and June typically mark the ideal wildflower viewing season.

Death Valley National Park: While the weather might be pleasant for a hike, in terms of wildflowers, just a few patches of yellow turtlebacks and desert gold have been spotted within the park. The wildflower season traditionally runs until mid-April.

Arizona

Lost Dutchman State Park: The occasional splash of yellow brittlebush can be found against the rocky landscape at this desert park in Arizona, though dry winter weather has largely dimmed prospects for a full wildflower bloom.

Saguaro National Park: Splashes of yellow brittlebush and flame red ocotillo are already lighting up the park’s desert scenery in the east, and cactus blooms are expected in the west from late April until June.

Be sure to check websites or call ahead for the most up-to-date information.